Weekly football conversation since 2009, with Graham Sibley, Jan Bilton and Terry Duffelen. Listen on Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or your podcatcher of choice.

Leipzig are easy to watch unless they're on SKY

20/08/21: RB Leipzig 4—0  VfB Stuttgart

First, an entitled rant

This has nothing whatsoever to do with the match, but can I just say what an unutterable ball ache it’s coming to watch the Bundesliga in the UK. Since 2013 Bundesliga fans in Britain had it easy. They just needed to cobble together enough cash for a BT Sport subscription to watch the league. Excepting the Saturday 2:30 pm kickoffs, every game was broadcast live on one of their channels. On the rare occasion that the sports broadcaster had something else they’d rather show on their four channels, they’d stick it behind the red button. No muss, no fuss, no wrestling with pop-ups on illegal streams.

This season, and for the next four years, the UK TV rights for the Bundesliga is on Sky Sports who clearly don’t want them. The stationery and office equipment procurers at Comcast (the owners of Sky) who also look after rights acquisitions have decided that since they have these rights in Italy and Germany, they should have them in the UK too.

I can only imagine that Sky Sports UK editorial team were underwhelmed by the gift of the Bundesliga, dismissing it as a farmer’s league that has little or no audience in a market dominated by the English and Scottish Leagues. Since the start of the season, only two Bundesliga matches have been shown on their live channels, with the rest given away for free on the Sky Sports App. So, for those of us unfamiliar with the Sky's ecosystem it took a bit of doing to find the link on the app, paste it into a laptop browser and if you’ve got the right gear, cast to your TV. The picture quality is naff and the sound quality even worse but it’s watchable.

The upside to all this is that Sky is giving us free Bundesliga. The downside is that you can’t watch it, easily, on the telly and the streams are difficult to find. The further downside is that Sky holds so little value on their rights that they would rather give them away and show old EFL repeats and Gary Neville podcasts on their live football channels, instead.

If I worked at the Bundesliga I would be wondering if partnering up with Sky was the right choice. The deal lasts for four years and by the time it comes to an end, the already small market may well be reduced to just me and a few other guys on Twitter. Hardly a good base with which to eventually launch the official Bundesliga OTT app into the UK, something that on reflection they should have done by now.

I’d also be double-checking that those SKY free streams are VPN blocked in case you get Bundesliga fans from larger markets outside the UK accessing free Bundesliga.

To the match, then

The pre-game preamble was predominantly about the American-ness of the two coaches: Jesse Marsch of RB Leipzig and Pellegrino Matarazzo of VfB Stuttgart.

Jesse Marsch enjoyed a distinguished playing career in MLS. His obvious coaching talent was nurtured by the Red Bull System and after a successful stint in the Austrian Bundesliga at Red Bull Salzburg was moved up to the German Bundesliga and the Red Bull senior team at Leipzig this summer. Unless I’ve got my facts wrong Marsch will be the first US coach to lead out a team in the Champions League.

Marsch’s first league match was against Mainz, under another Red Bull graduate Bo Svensson (of whom we will hear a lot this season). It ended in a 1–0 defeat and the first shock result of the season. For no other reason, I suspect, that Marsch is an American, questions were asked as to whether or not he’d made the move to Leipzig too soon. And with Stuttgart up next, there was a modicum of additional pressure on the fixture.

VfB have been coached now by Matarazzo since December 2019 and the native of Wayne, New Jersey has guided his team back into Bundesliga 1 and re-established the club as a sold first-tier outfit with an exuberant young squad that started the season with a resounding 5–1 win against newly promoted Greuther Fürth. This performance underlined what a lot of us were saying that VfB may be worth a European spot this season. Needless to say, there was plenty to get excited about going into the match and it didn’t disappoint as a spectacle, even if Stuttgart fans won’t agree. Leipzig controlled the game from beginning to end and the 4–0 scoreline did not flatter them in the slightest.

The headline makers were debutant Dominik Szoboszlai and new signing André Silva. The players behind the headlines were captain Willi Orban and midfielder Tyler Adams.

Szoboszlai, who you may remember from Hungary’s Euro 2021 took the well-trod path from Leipzig from Salzburg last year but sadly did not play due to injury. This was his first Bundesliga appearance and he marked it with two goals of great quality. The first long-range shot was at the same time, relaxed in its journey towards the goal while being unstoppable. His second was if anything more languid than the first: an intended cross that beat everyone. If footballs were endowed with sentience then it would be as surprised as the rest of us to find itself in the back of the net.

Silva is a big-money move from Frankfurt. The third-highest scorer in the Bundesliga last season was expected to just keep going but there will always be an element of uncertainty about any new striker until they start producing the goods. Happily for the Portuguese, he did just that with a delicate assist for Emil Forsberg’s goal at the start of the second half which confirmed the result for Leipzig. Silva was then gifted the chance to get his first goal of the season with a 65-minute penalty. Hat’s off to Szoboszlai for not trying to claim the spot-kick for himself and an almost certain hattrick.

From the fourth goal onwards it was game management. After the match Matarazzo had few complaints, saying that they’d not really encountered a team as tough as Leipzig in pre-season and they would learn from the experience. No need to panic although the loss of Sasa Kalajdzic for several weeks due to a shoulder injury will be a blow.

Jesse Marsch did not start the game with Kalajdzic’s compatriot and star midfielder, Marcel Sabitzer. The Austrian is heavily linked with a move to Bayern before the deadline closes. However, in view of last night’s result and performance, you have to wonder if now is the right time to be leaving Leipzig if he wants to win a Bundesliga title.

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